The most efficient way to research the law is to understand that all positive (man-made) law has both an abstract and a concrete aspect. Understanding this dual nature of the U.S. law helps you understand how to best research it. Usually, you come in touch with this dual nature of American law when you study how law (legal norms) steers political power into achieving concrete results.
You also come in contact with both the concrete and the abstract facet of the law when you study individual rights. From a conceptual standpoint, individual rights can be viewed as powers of law conferred on the individual by the legal order through concrete legal norms, such as statutes or court decisions. Those rights and the norms that confer them will inherently mirror the fundamental values of each society. Some individual rights are common to all societies (and legal systems) that have a similar cultural tradition, such as private property rights are common in all societies today. Other individual rights are more contingent culturally. The individual right to health care or euthanasia are among such specific rights, as are such individual entitlements as welfare.
From a pragmatic point of view, individual rights go beyond their power of symbolism of empowerment. Rights are what you can do with them. For a member of the upper class, property rights surely have the making of a fundamental right. For a member of the underclass, expectedly so, things are totally different; and property rights will have lesser value. Nevertheless, discussing rights would be an abstract exercise, while locating the legal norms – statutes, or cases – which establish those rights is a legal research exercise which requires you to understand the government institutions which make the respective norms.

This wiki chapter will explain how the law-making institutions function.

The U.S. Legal System-A Common Law System

The Lawmaking Branches of the Government

  1. Federal and State Legislatures

  2. Federal and State Courts

3. The Executive Branch. Independent Administrative Agencies